Call to review planned charges for 10 car parks in Bristol fails to win support

Shoppers, GP patients and churchgoers who currently park for free would have to pay £1 an hour, seven days a week
Westbury Hill car park is used by patients visiting the nearby doctors surgeryWestbury Hill car park is used by patients visiting the nearby doctors surgery
Westbury Hill car park is used by patients visiting the nearby doctors surgery

The Green Party has voted against free parking in the city as Bristol City Council approved a move to introduce new charges at ten car parks.

Labour also voted against a motion tabled by Tory group leader Cllr Mark Weston, who urged Bristol mayor Marvin Rees to “revisit, review and reverse” the idea following an outcry primarily about introducing pay and display at Westbury Hill car park in Westbury-on-Trym.

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The motion was supported by the Lib Dems but failed because Greens and Labour, the two biggest parties in the chamber, voted against.

Cllr Ed Plowden (Green, Windmill Hill) tabled an amendment “opposing the principle of free parking” but this was also voted down.

He said: “The Conservatives want to take some of the most valuable real estate that the council owns – parking – and give free access to it for private car owners.

“This runs counter to what we think is right for vibrant, sustainable neighbourhoods, let alone the need to reduce volumes of car traffic by 40 per cent by 2030 in Bristol, as calculated by the university.

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“It is a pity that we have no proper, citywide strategy for parking which means we end up focussing on a few car parks rather than a proper strategic approach to regulating and intervening in a market for very limited and much sought-after space.”

The Labour administration insists it has already agreed to talk to residents about possible changes to the proposals, which were approved in last month’s budget and are set to come into force this autumn.

Shoppers, GP patients, community groups and churchgoers who currently park for free would have to pay £1 an hour, seven days a week.

Cllr Weston’s motion called on the mayor to “commit to conducting full consultation” and “explore possible compromise solutions”, such as making the first hour free but increasing how much drivers would pay after that so the council still earned the same income.

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It also demanded pausing the sell-off of four other district car parks to “evaluate their impact on local high streets and then consult on those plans as well”.

Cllr Sharon Scott (Conservative, Westbury-on-Trym & Henleaze) told the meeting: “Westbury has a thriving high street with the only banks in north Bristol.“Parking charges will no doubt influence people to park on the street, impacting local residents.

“The large primary care centre, Holy Trinity Church and Methodist church are all either on the car park itself or minutes away.”

She said the Methodist church doubled as a community hub used by more than 2,000 people a week, including Scouts, Guides, Alcoholics Anonymous, Bristol Ballet Centre, a drama group, a foodbank and a Ukrainian centre.

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Cllr Scott said: “What message is the council giving to volunteers who give up their own time to help, then to be charged for the privilege? Is the council really going to charge people to worship or see a doctor?

“This car park is used by many, it’s a vital part of Bristol life and it’s not just for the residents of BS9 who apparently can afford to pay extra charges, which some ill-informed councillors in this chamber seem to believe.“This scheme should not be used as a tax on daily life.

“We need a consultation and a proper debate on the first hour being free, no annual permits and free parking on Sundays. Simply bringing in charges without consultation will harm our communities and local economy.”

Labour group leader Cllr Steve Pearce said that during February’s budget full council, the Tories wanted the parking charges reversed but “the most palatable way they could fund this was by raiding the council tax reduction scheme – funding free car parks off the backs of the city’s worst-off”.

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He said: “If we can find a cost-neutral way to maintain these car parks then we’re happy to do it. We’ve already said this.

“These car parks aren’t free to maintain – by keeping them free you’re subsidising motorists inherently at the expense of other forms of transport.”

Earlier, at member forum, Cllr John Goulandris (Conservative, Stoke Bishop), asked the mayor: “Is it possible for the council to give the GP surgery a very small number of passes that they could give to patients so they don’t end up having to pay?”

Mr Rees replied: “We want to explore the potential of that. There is a cost to it and I want to talk to our health partners about that cost. We’re in a dilemma, they’re in a dilemma and I hope we can sit around the table and resolve it.”

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